It’s a fine feeling to swing a child upside down and listen to their innocent squeal as you deftly bring them back up to eye height. It also brings a sweet contraction of the heart to hold a little girl’s hand in the surf and lift her over the white wash. These sorts of child-centric activities can also lend a person an unreasonable sense of their own strength, hence increasing the appeal of children. They make you smile with their easy giggles and you begin to feel rather cool, almost God-like with their appreciation of your attention. Plus, in my case, meagre muscles are transformed into a female version of Arnie’s 1990s body. What is not to love about these little kiddies?
In the days after Christmas there will always be the inevitable smashing, crashing and losing of the presents that were supposed to be cherished and last until at least the new year.
If somebody asked me about the benefits of long car trips, I would ask whether the positive gains would extend beyond reaching a destination. Last night Potter and I survived another 10-hour car trip, tempers still intact. It’s not always the case.
We live eight hours from the closest family members in a place where air fares are still at 1980s prices. So long drives are as avoidable as getting sunbburnt at the cricket.
Yesterday’s mission began without promise. Potter lounged away with just his hangover for company, insisting he wanted to leave the next day. Compromise was not a word in my dictionary as I stormed around cleaning, packing and insisting we were going to leave imminently.
The fun truly began once we hit the long stretches of red dirt, with just a few stray emus and some bad music to keep us company. Boots sat in the back opening his mouth wide enough to impress a dentist as he drank in the freedom of being on the road and the promise of cooler eastern temperatures. In the cab, Potter and I found ample ways to amuse ourselves. Our favourite game is a rather complicated affair called Goat. In this stimulating game the passenger and driver compete to be the first to spot a goat. They express this by yelling Goat at a reasonable volume. Bloody exciting, that game.
Often I will read to Ben while he is driving. Now, isn’t that sweet.
On a trip to the Windorah Yabbie Races earlier this year we had an extra passenger, let’s call her Smella, and she introduced us to a game that required cognitive effort. It begins with the sentence ‘daddy’s gunna buy you a diamond ring’, then the first player must make up an ending to the sentence. For example, ‘and if that diamond ring don’t shine, daddy’s gunna buy you a ball of twine.’ That continues on and one. It’s highly entertaining. We gave it a shot yesterday but it was interrupted by a badly-timed fart that was much funnier than the real game. The confined space reglations were consultated about the legalities of flatulence on long trips. For the record, the rules state that if all passengers are participating then no retribution can be dished out.
And to think that this is the fun side of the car ride.
Things really head downhill when the mumbles begin. No one in the car can be bothered with enunciation so the car is filled with an increasing din of ‘pardon’, ‘huh’, ‘what’, ‘what did you say’ and then finally ‘speak f******* properly’. Usually we’ll sit in silence for about 10kms before the perpetrator of such impatience feels bad enough to sneak a hand onto the other’s knee. Instantly the spat is forgotten. There is no place for grudges with at least four hours to go.
Then there is the passenger ettiquitte, which includes advising the driver on speed limits and rogue wildlife. Last night I learned that yelling the new speed limit and smacking the upper arm is as well received as food poisoning at Christmas.
But let’s not forget the good points. One of the most glorious things about these trips is the sense of teamwork. With just 40km to go, when the moon is sitting far above the horizon and the driver’s yawns are more frequent than the roos jumping in front of the vehicle, that’s when you realise that you’re in it together and the company you had was a million times better than doing it alone. The mumbling probably wasn’t too bad.
And then the next morning, when you wake up 10 hours east of home with family to make you breakfast, it was all worth it.